Recent history has not been kind to RBNY's 'keepers. Bouna Coundoul rolled into the 2011 season as the holder of the club record for clean sheets in a single season and the presumptive starter between the sticks for years to come. By the end of the year, there was a new team goalkeeping record: five different starting 'keepers used in one season. And not one of them made it back on to the roster for 2012.
Ryan Meara offered the hope of being the club's next long-term #1, but he succumbed to injury, as did his replacement, Bill Gaudette. Luis Robles finished out the 2012 season as the eighth man to start in goal for RBNY over the final two seasons of the Backe-Soler era.
So it was a relief to see Robles back for 2013, and starting every league and playoff game for the season. A fit and in-form 'keeper is often the key to a successful year. A fit and in-form Robles is the only 'keeper for this club to have won a significant trophy. Not Tim Howard, not Tony Meola - Luis Robles is, trophy-wise, the most successful 'keeper we've ever had.
He will deservedly start the 2014 season as first-choice in goal. The Supporters' Shield is the only stat that really matters, but Robles notched 11 clean sheets in last year's regular season, just one shy of Coundoul's RBNY single-season shutout record. He managed to do so while taking an absolute shelling: only Dan Kennedy and Troy Perkins faced more shots in MLS than Robles last year (our opponents loosed 147 shots on goal in 2013). Put another way, he was backstopping the league's third-worst defense at keeping opposing players from getting a shot on target.
Well played, Luis. Here's hoping you have a more effective unit in front of you this year, and take another step toward joining Tim Howard and Tony Meola as one of the club's all-time greats.
Of course, that will mean a season on the bench for Ryan Meara. If you saw the man play during the first half of the 2012 season, you love him. Hand it to Hans Backe, when he gave a kid few had ever heard of a chance, they were pretty good: Tim Ream, to a lesser extent Connor Lade; Meara could yet be the best of all the young players unearthed by the allegedly anti-youth Swede.
Meara started the 2014 preseason banged up and on the sidelines, raising the horrifying thought that he might still be struggling to put a year in the physio room behind him. But he put in a good shift against Fluminense U-23s and looks to be everything we hope for: an MLS-ready 'keeper with the potential to go very much further in the game.
It can be assumed he will push Robles in training, and meaningful competition keeps standards high. Meara should be allowed to start the US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League games that will pop up on the calendar in the second half of the season. If that is all he gets, it means Robles - and presumably the team - is doing well.
So even though we suspect Meara could bail the team out of trouble, it's probably for the best if we get another year of cool-headed shot-stopping out of Robles, and avoid any crises between the sticks.
The third 'keeper on the roster is homegrown teenager Santiago Castano. In the little time he got in preseason, he looked to be a little uncertain in his distribution and positioning, but these are aspects of the game which generally come with experience. Castano is 18; give him time. Another year of learning the game in the reserves beckons - unless Xolos decide to steal him from us also.
An ambition for this season should be for the club to carry all three of these 'keepers into 2015. In Castano's case, it will be an endorsement of the club's talent-spotting and player development. For Meara and Robles to stay on the roster past this season means they're both getting satisfactory minutes, which means the team has gone deep into all the competitions it's chasing this year, and they've both played well.
Make it happen, gents.